It’s now only eleven days until QLD Poetry Festival takes over the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, so let’s keep the interviews coming. This time I chat with award winning South Australian poet, Aidan Coleman.
Your first book, Avenues and Runways was shortlisted in the 2006 NSW Literary Awards. What are your memories of working on that collection?
Lots of drafting … I started working on these poems in second year at university when I was reading a lot of Australian poetry. Most of the poems that survived were written in my early years of teaching.
I remember the rush which came from writing a good poem a nd how poetry amplified the world around me.
An earlier form of the book got rejected a few years before it was published and I’m glad it did because there were a fair few poems I would now disown.
Is there another collection in the pipeline?
I have a new book coming out on Brandl & Schlesinger next year called Asymmetry. I had a srtoke about four years ago and the first two-thirds of the book are about that. The stroke was pretty severe and I thought at first that I lost the ability to create metaphor. For about a year and half afterwards , the topic of the stroke was raw and upsetting for me to revisit but the writing and naming ended up a key part of the healing. The lyrics that complete the book ‘Poems for Leana’ were predominately written between a year and two years after the stroke when I was in need of a happier subject.
One of the things that is striking about your work, is the clarity in which you capture each image. A favourite image of mine is from your poem, Rainworks:
Along the stave of the fence’s wire
hang the rain’s broken notes.
What is the process you go through in distilling the words down to their bare essence?
I always believe in the power of the image and sometimes more words close off the potential meanings, the possibilities. I tend to discard the images that lack clarity and whittle poems down to bare bones. Many of my favourite poems are very short.
Are you more excited at the start or the finish of the poem?
I tend to build poems around a line and many of them end up not working so while the whole process is a joy, I never quite know I have a poem until I’ve finished. But on finishing a first draft, I tend to do a lot of tinkering.
What are the themes permeating your new work? (can you also include a poem here for me to post)
I’m still writing about the stroke because the book is not closed yet. Other than that, anything that has happened or is happening in my life is material for poetry.
6 weeks ultrasound
Through lunar weather
we saw your light
in the distance.
and still to come.
Across three fences
the lights and noise of a party at anchor;
a paddock dusty
with stars; our lit-up talk
The distance is years from there
your sleeping breath
is at my neck,
your indelible kiss on my mind.
What are you most looking forward to about coming to QLD Poetry Festival?
My parents were too stingy to take me to Dream World as a kid so I’ve never been to Queensland. There are quite a few poets on the program whose work I enjoy that I haven’t seen perform before. Mostly I’m looking forward to poetry and good conversation; the weather as well.
Catch Aidan at QLD Poetry Festival 2011:
Saturday 27 August:
Image Back to the Word, 2:45pm, Theatre Space, Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, with Sawako Nakayasu (Japan) & Cindy Keong (Free Entry)
Sunday 28 August:
Among the Last Bright Leaves, 5:00pm, Shopfront Space, Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, with Ron Pretty (NSW) & Nicola Scholes (Free Entry)